The Indiana Pacers looked encouraging early, jumping out to a quick lead and responding well to each punch the Toronto Raptors threw. It amounted to a halftime lead, with Paul George scoring 17 points in the half and the Pacers holding their own on the glass and at the free throw line.
Unfortunately, that left the next 24 minutes, in which DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas took charge, dominating the third quarter by scoring 28 on their own as the Raptors outscored Indiana 34-20. In the third, Toronto shot 17 free throws, leading to a gap the Pacers were unable to make up, with Indiana shooting 21 for the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Pacers managed to work the game into single digits, but allowed Toronto to score on eight of their final nine possessions, taking away any opportunity of a realistic comeback. In the end, Indiana did themselves in with a complete lack of composure and fight in the second half, to where there was only a single highlight of note as Myles Turner blocked DeRozan at the rim (after a DeRozan missed free throw became a second chance opportunity for Toronto), one of his four on the night.
Rebounding also betrayed the Pacers as the Raptors brought far better energy out of the half, with Valanciunas overcoming a “slow” rebounding first half to finish with a double double of 16 points and 17 rebounds. In addition, Toronto calmly stepped into 14 three pointers, with five different Raptors shooting at or above 50% for the game from deep.
Three of those came off of offensive rebounds as Toronto outscored Indiana 22-13 in second chance points. Like Toronto’s 23-17 free throw advantage, it wasn’t as pronounced an advantage as it appeared in game (Indiana outscored the Raptors 14-4 in fast break points for example), but that inability to get stops late played right into the only slight edge Toronto needed for the win.
George would finished with 28 points, but DeRozan got the better of him with 40 points and 15 free throws. DeRozan pump faked his way to the line all night, but for whatever reason, Nate McMillan decided there was nothing he could do to slow down DeRozan, giving the bulk of work to C.J. Miles and Monta Ellis, instead of the player who held DeRozan to 32% shooting in the playoffs last spring in George.
While there wasn’t the same level of energy in the second half from the Pacers, there was also no discernible coaching in the second half either. Ellis was a wreck the entire game; he missed layups like DeRozan made free throws, but was also tasked defensively to handle DeMarre Carroll, who camped out for a pair of third quarter threes while Ellis lagged off.
McMillan’s response wasn’t to bench Ellis, but to switch the defensive assignments to put George on Carroll, leaving Ellis to have to contend with DeRozan. As expected, it didn’t work too well for the Pacers, but instead of recognizing the flow of the game and the disadvantage of playing Ellis on a night he simply doesn’t have anything going, McMillan still put him on the floor in the fourth quarter, setting up an unforced backcourt violation where Ellis turned it over dribbling too close to half court.
With their fifth loss in six games, their seventh straight road loss, and now holding just a 1⁄2 game lead over 9th place Chicago, it’s becoming increasingly clear that despite the outcome of the season, the Pacers will need upgrades in many areas, including the head coaching position. Another road loss looms on Sunday when they travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers, but hey, it’s Lance!